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Kris, E. (1939). On Inspiration—Preliminary Notes on Emotional Conditions in Creative States. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 20:377-389.

(1939). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 20:377-389

On Inspiration—Preliminary Notes on Emotional Conditions in Creative States

Ernst Kris

The present paper is devoted to an attempt at understanding some of the psychological problems connected with inspiration. For reasons of space I cannot quote at length the clinical, biographical, and anthropological evidence on which this essay is based. It will, however, be given in full on another occasion, in a study of the nature of creative processes on a broader basis.

Let us take the spirit of language as a guide for our first steps. The various meanings of the word 'inspiration' shew a single conception developing along a progressive scale. The literal meaning is best illustrated by the narrative in Gen. ii, 7: 'And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.' The usage of the word 'inspiration' in modern times is, however, twofold. It comprehends the action of inhaling as well as the action of blowing on, or into, the passive as well as the active part of the process.

The metaphorical usage to which I shall mainly refer, transposes the bodily action on to the mental plane. The action of inspiring and the condition of being inspired refer to the mind. 'A special immediate action or influence of the spirit of God or some divine and supernatural being' (Shorter Oxford Dictionary, 1936) takes hold of a person. He becomes an instrument of the Divine, and his works are 'inspired' in the same way as those books of the Bible which are thought to have been written under divine influence and have retained a special place in the religious belief of man.

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